Big Magic-Inspired: The Ingredients

When I think about the phenomenon that was the book Eat Pray Love, I think about the pizza paragraph. It was the most vivid imagery I’d ever read.

“The dough it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughty. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing of course. You try to take a bit off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslides, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.” – Liz Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

And while we can all agree pizza is awesome, I think we can also agree that this really wasn’t Liz Gilbert’s desired takeaway for her readers…or maybe it was? In which case, success, Liz. Pizza has never been the same.

When she released Big Magic last year, I didn’t pay too much attention. Then a friend texted me a photo of it, asking if I had read it and that if I hadn’t, I needed to. I looked it up, saw it was by the same author as Eat Pray Love. I remembered the pizza scene, smiled, then moved on.

Then a few more people told me to read it. A co-worker, another friend, another co-worker. It came up over and over again.

I can take a hint. Especially when there are flashing arrows pointing to it.

This summer, I took two blissful weeks of vacation with no big plans. The perfect time to read this book.

But I didn’t read it. I devoured it. In fact, I finished it and closed the back cover, turned it over and started again. But with a pen and a notebook.

I so desperately wanted to impress a book into my heart and into my soul.

This book is a game changer for me. It’s finally allowing me to admit I’m creative. I am. Because creativity doesn’t mean “good at art”. In fact, “creativity” doesn’t have any qualitative aspect – creativity can’t be good or bad. It is just the act of making. Of creating.

I love creating. I love thinking and imagining and visioning. I love making and experimenting and appreciating creativity.

I am creative. I want to be creative.

My favourite form to express creativity is through words. It’s also how I process. And when I wondered how the heck I would process this book, it felt overwhelming and too big. I got crazy butterflies.

And I try to always choose butterflies.

Ingredients

And I also break overwhelming things into parts. Thankfully, Liz did that in this book with those essential ingredients. And so, I took it one ingredient at a time.

I made a commitment. I would start a new workday routine. I’d wake up 45 minutes before I needed to and I’d write. I’d write about these ingredients, one at a time. I’d use Liz’s beautiful concepts and words as a launch pad, and write what stirred in me.

I’d write without pressure. Maybe I’d post it, maybe I wouldn’t. But I knew the best way for me to imprint this beautiful collection of words into my heart and soul was to use it as the foundation for my own creativity.

I’ve learned a lot through this. For example, creativity is meant to be shared. Not for the sake of helping others, but for the simple sake of sharing.

So I’ll share what Liz stirred in me, one ingredient at a time. These aren’t summaries of her words. Not at all. In fact, they often drift away from what she intended. And if you’ve read Big Magic, you know she’s okay with this. Because she’s okay with anything that stirs creativity.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve taken away from each ingredient. I’ll expand on each one over the coming weeks.

Courage: Refuse to make decisions based on fear.

Enchantment: Ideas and inspiration are bigger concepts than we can wrap our heads around. And that’s wonderful.

Permission: You don’t need permission to create. Simply by existing, by being a human with a voice, you are entitled to create.

Persistence: Create without the goal of perfection. Perfection creates pressure that stifles creativity.

Trust: Creating is about the process, not the end project. You need to create, even when the outcome isn’t guaranteed. Because the outcome is never guaranteed.

And so I share this. But for me. And if it happens to resonate with you? Then that’s a beautiful side effect.

And I need to say, thank you Liz Gilbert. Thank you for taking my view of creativity and flipping it inside out. Thank you for the words that keep me wanting to create.

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Busy enough

This past month or so has been comfortable.

Painfully comfortable.

My job is plugging away at a manageable pace. Regularly-scheduled activities have taken a hiatus during the summer, so less commitments. People are out of town, so less visiting.

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I’ve had a lot of downtime. A lot of time to spend however I please. So you’d think I’d be productive. I’d write more, I’d read more, I’d get things organized. But do you know what disappears when all that time shows up?

Motivation.

I have so much time, I tell myself. I can work on that later. But later never comes.

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” An old colleague used to say that. But isn’t it true? When I’m busy, I’m in motion and can knock off to-dos like a rockstar. Once I’m in motion, it’s easy to keep going.

This is not news, really. In fact, this is Newton’s Frist Law of Motion:
Objects that are in motion, stay in motion.
Objects that are at rest, stay at rest.
(Thank you high school science!)

It takes more energy to start moving than it does to keep moving.

And lately, I’ve been that object at rest. And, oh boy, do I ever want to stay at rest. Even pulling out the computer to type out this – something that I’ve been thinking about for days – felt like the biggest challenge. But now here I am, typing away and wondering why it took me so long to do this. I’ve pulled out my computer to do other things…like check Facebook and watch Michelle Obama sing in a car a few times. But typing out these thoughts? That felt like a mountain of a task.

So I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to be that object in motion, that busy person. Not crazy busy, I’m over that, but busy enough. Busy enough to stay a bit uncomfortable and stay motivated. Busy enough to choose creating rather than consuming. Busy enough to choose moving rather than resting. Busy enough to choose butterflies rather than…well…not choosing butterflies.

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When the plan doesn’t go as planned

Nine years ago, I graduated from university. I graduated with a unique and cutting-edge degree and had been told for four years that this was going to be the ticket to a great job.

The world was my oyster. Reach for the stars. I hung my hat on all the classic millennial clichés. Watch out world, here I come.

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When I crossed that convocation stage, I had my five-year plan all worked out. I was going to become a Public Relations professional – ideally at an agency in Toronto. Right away, I made a connection that got me an interview at a high profile agency. Every class, exam, project, summer job, led to this. I was about to “arrive”.

I didn’t get the job.

And more than that, I cried the whole way home from the interview because I didn’t want the job. I didn’t want the thing I’d been working so hard for.

All that planning and focus felt misguided. It crushed me to admit the thing I had been working towards wasn’t actually going to happen…all while my classmates seemingly slid into their dream jobs.

So…now what?

I was living back at my parents’ house, frustrated, bored and feeling really sorry for myself. Just ask them – I was a treat.

And that was just the beginning. Nothing seemed to be working out. I interviewed a lot and got rejected a lot. I tried to keep myself busy. I volunteered and took on freelance or short-term projects. I coached gymnastics and worked in a greenhouse to make a bit of money.

This was not how it was supposed to go.

But after a full year of this, I finally got a “grown-up” job. Thankfully, it was worth all the boredom and frustration of that year. I had incredible leaders who are still mentors in my life. I made friends that are now some of my closest people. I learned so much that shaped who I am as a Communicator.

None of that would’ve happened if my five-year plan had worked out.

So to that nine-years-ago Lindsay (or anyone else) who has just crossed the convocation stage and the plan isn’t going as planned, take a deep breath. You’re going to be okay. Just keep these four things in mind.

Hold your five-year plan loosely.
It’s important to have a plan and work towards a goal. But don’t be so focused on that particular plan that you miss out on an even better plan that you hadn’t thought of. Then have the courage to jump into the new plan with two feet.

The “next thing” is sometimes just that – the next thing.
Don’t put too much pressure on the “next thing” to be “the thing”. Often, it’s just the thing that will prepare you for whatever comes after it, and that’s still important. You don’t have to understand how this next thing fits exactly into the bigger picture. You just have to trust that you’ve made informed and prayerful choices, and then embrace all that the next thing is.

The goal is not to “arrive”.
Spoiler alert: you may never arrive. And that can be a good thing because arriving means you’ve stopped growing. Embrace where you are, while you take each step as it comes.

Find a mentor.
Humble yourself to realize you don’t know everything. Seek out someone who is doing something you think is fun and seems to be enjoying it. Listen to them. Listen more than you talk to them. Not only will they have good advice, they may advocate for you one day.

And on that humility note, let me say that I’m only nine years into this 40-year career thing. I’m still a relative rookie. I know nine years from now, the list above will have even more insights. What would you add?

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How lucky we are to be alive right now

The Tony Awards are my Superbowl.

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I spend the months leading up to it, reading, learning, watching, soaking up everything I can find. And we live in a time of YouTube and Twitter and Snapchat (I’m embarssed by that last one), so there is so much to soak up.

And it all cumulates with the Tonys.

And this year has been special. The level of talent, creativity, and diversity that steps out on the stage eight times a week is so rare.

The sense of camaraderie and community among these actors is so special. They cheer for each other, they celebrate each other. Imagine if every industry – entertainment and otherwise – worked that way.

It all overwhelms me.

And I could write so much about this year’s Tonys.

I could write an entire post about the opening number, where all the acting nominees stood together and told kids that “this could be you”. Kids whose only exposure to live theatre is this broadcast. Kids who may not feel included know that there’s a place for them in theatre.

I could write an entire post about the Spring Awakening revival. A show with hearing and deaf actors beautifully telling a story together. A show with the first ever Broadway actor in a wheelchair. A show that closed, but crowdsourced funds to perform at the Tonys so that people of all abilities could see themselves on a stage.

I could write an entire post about the commercial bumpers – where current casts sung numbers from classic shows outside the theatre to crowds that couldn’t afford the ticket inside the Tonys. An idea based on Hamilton’s new #ham4ham tradition. Brilliant.

I could write a few posts about Hamilton. About the attention it’s bringing to theatre. About Lin finishing his number with tears in his eyes because he’s not once taken for granted all that he is doing and all that is happening. About how, because of the shooting in Orlando the night before, they decided not to use muskets in their Tony performance. About Lin’s acceptance sonnet.

I could, and have, written a post about Waitress. And how oh so special that show is. About Jessie Mueller and her talent and what she represents, and how when she sings ‘She Used to be Mine’ all I can do is close my eyes and breathe in her voice.

But really, all I want to say is this.

I’m so grateful for theatre. I’m so grateful to have discovered something that gives me so much joy.

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My little brother’s wedding

There are a lot of emotions you go through when your little brother gets married.

There’s pride. I would tell anyone that would listen (and even those that wouldn’t) that my little brother was getting married. And how could I not be proud? Look at this guy!

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As with any change, there’s a strange sense of loss. Even with really positive changes (which this is), there’s the realization that things will never be the same. I’m learning more about change and have been reading William Bridges’ Managing Transitions. In it, he talks about how in any change there’s a process of letting go of the way things used to be and reorienting to the new way. I’m working on letting go of my “family of four”, and I’m so excited to reorient myself to officially having a sister-in-law (I LOVE saying that!)

There’s also an overwhelming sense of happiness. Their wedding day was one of the funnest and happiest days of my life to date. Everything from setting tables, to emceeing the reception, to dancing my heart out for hours…all of it was laced with pure and raw happiness. There haven’t been many times in my life where I’ve felt that level of joy.

I would also be lying if I said there wasn’t a feeling of insecurity. I’m the oldest. I’ve done everything first…except getting married, which is kind of a big one. My brother made my parents “in-laws”, not me. There were times where that made me sad, where I wished I was getting married, where I felt so obviously single. But now I realize this was an opportunity for me to work through that insecurity, to accept this season of my life, and truly celebrate my brother and sister-in-law. Being able to work through that made the celebration that much sweeter.

And it wouldn’t be a wedding without that love emotion. Watching my brother watch his bride walk down the aisle…that’s a look of pure love. And I realized just how much I love him, and my sister-in-law. Beyond that, I felt so much love for my family, my extended family, and friends that were there to celebrate. It’s so cliché and I’m hesitant to even write this, but love was in the air. We all breathed it in and exhaled it right back out.

I’m so grateful for this family, for this life, for the memories we made this weekend. I know just how precious this kind of celebration is. I will hold these past few days so dearly.

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Changing the goal

For four months in grade 3, I took piano lessons. Today, more than 20 years later, I can still play a few of the songs I learned in those four months.

A few years ago around Christmas time, Christmas Canon was on the radio quite a bit. I was so taken by the piano in the song. I wanted to learn how to play it.

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I actually investigated adult piano lessons. There were a few places I could take private lessons close by.

But then I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t.

I live in a condo and don’t really have room for a piano in my 600 square-foot postage stamp.

Even a keyboard would be pushing it. And it’s just not the same. Plus I’d annoy my neighbours.

What would I do with this skill? It’s a lot of money and not a practical thing in my life.

And probably my biggest hurdle: I wouldn’t be good at it.

As adults, isn’t this the biggest stop sign? If we’re not going to be good at it, why even bother? We’d probably embarrass ourselves, people would think less of us.

But what if the goal of learning a new skill wasn’t to get good at it? What if we eliminate that factor altogether?

What if the goal of learning a new skill was to find joy in something new?

To find a new way to express ourselves?

To say ‘I did something hard’?

So I’m genuinely curious…what would you learn to do if the goal wasn’t to be good at it?

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Watching and looking

I love words.

I love when words seep with literary devices that turn a simple sentence into a line of poetry.

I love when sentences don’t follow the proper structure. Not in a bad grammar way, but in a “need to break the formal rules to stand out” kind of way.

I love when words I know are strung together in a new way that cracks open a new meaning in them.

And I love when words you assume are interchangeable suddenly aren’t.

Annie F. Downs does all of these things so well. But in her latest book, Looking for Lovely, she does that last point in a powerful way.

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Watching for a miracle.

Looking for lovely.

When you’re watching for something, you’re expectant. You know it’s going to happen. You watch for your ride to pick you up. You watch for your shift to end. You watch for the show to start.

Looking, however, is active. You are seeking and the finding is unknown. You look for a sale. You look for a new job. You look for the rainbow after the storm.

In Looking for Lovely, Annie so vulnerably shares about a “broken crazy” season in her life. Where so much catches up with her and she doesn’t know what to do with it. But she shares that she was watching for a miracle, fully expecting God to do something amazing.

But while watching for this miracle, she looks for lovely. She seeks out beauty. Reasons to keep showing up and plugging away. A sunset, sparkly nail polish, deep conversations with dear friends – these are the lovely.

“As I thought back over my own life, the beautiful things, though few and far between, were the knots on the rope that helped me keep climbing.” – Annie F. Downs

What if we lived our lives watching for a miracle while looking for lovely?

I don’t think we can have miracles without lovely. It’s like the miracle is on the other end of a long roadtrip, and the lovely is the gas stations along the way. If we don’t make a point to look for the gas stations, we won’t make it to the final destination.

Watching for a miracle is hard to do. It’s easy to give up on the miracle and convince yourself that it won’t happen. The lovely is what fuels your drive to keep watching.

Maybe so many of us give up on miracles because we’re not looking for the things to keep us going, the gas stations. We pray for and expect miracles, then go about our lives with blinders on to the things we need to stay in that place of expectation. So we stop watching, praying and expecting. We stop thinking God can do big things.

But I’m learning God partners with me. I’m an active participant in miracles. He’s got the actual miracle part covered. My job is to hold on, to look for the fuel on the roadtrip, the knots on the rope, the lovely, so that I can keep watching for the miracle.

Looking for Lovely is released today! You can buy it on Amazon.

 

Disclaimer: I had the pleasure of being part of Annie’s launch team for Looking for Lovely and received an advanced copy. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

 

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Jumping afraid

Since I was 8, my answer to “what’s your favourite sport?” has always been “gymnastics”.

I did recreational gymnastics from age 8 until I was 14. I was okay at it. I certainly had the flexibility, a decent amount of coordination, and probably could’ve developed the strength if I trained more. But there was one thing always got in the way.

I was afraid.

Gymnastics basically requires you to do things that your brain says “No. Danger. Stop.”

Front tuck on a 4-inch wide balance beam? No.

Run full-speed towards a vault and flip over it? Danger.

Propel yourself from an 8-foot high bar? Stop.

But gymnasts have something in them that shuts those (some would argue important) warnings off to do the scary things.

For a good year, I spent the entire time on our bar rotation in the front support position, working up the courage to do a straddle dismount. I was so afraid of falling forward when my feet hit the bar, even though gravity doesn’t work that way. The fear won out over basic physics.

I live today as a retired recreational gymnast (and coach) who has never done a straddle dismount.

That image raced back to me as I read a passage in Life’s Great Dare by Christa Hesselink, a new book about transformation and the abundant life. In it, she uses the example of her first experience bungee jumping, how she had to walk up to the edge of the platform and muster up the courage to jump. And then she writes these words that stopped my eyes from moving on to the next line.

“I knew that if I was going to jump, I was going to have to jump afraid.”

Read that again. Slowly.

LifesGreatDareUp until recently, I didn’t do anything if it meant I’d have to do it afraid. Fear was my signal to stop. As soon as it crept into whatever I was experiencing, I aborted the mission.

Like the straddle dismount.

Or going to a networking event where I don’t know anyone.

Or choosing butterflies.

Don’t get me wrong. Fear does serve a purpose. It stops us from doing things that might actually harm us. I’m glad that I’m afraid of snakes and sharks and walking through bad neighbourhoods at night.

Fear is a tricky thing though. Sometimes it stops us from hurting ourselves, but other times it stops us from growing into who we are called to be.

In her book, Christa explains that life’s great dare is to let God transform us. It’s about giving up comfort in order for something new and better to emerge.

Because the thing about personal transformation is that it feels uncomfortable, it feels risky. It feels like jumping afraid.

But what if we don’t? What if we stay safe and stop God from transforming us? What are we missing out on.

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I want to be more afraid of missing out, than of being transformed. Or jumping afraid. Or choosing butterflies.

Intrigued? Life’s Great Dare is Christa’s story of transformation in the midst of the most devastating and traumatic circumstances. She writes with such truth and vulnerability, it’s hard not to be moved to explore what your life would look like if you say “yes” to Life’s Great Dare.

Life’s Great Dare is available on Amazon as of March 31. You can also learn more at www.lifesgreatdare.com.

Disclaimer: I am proudly part of the Life’s Great Dare launch team. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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Stop waiting for the perfect time

I spend a lot of time waiting. I imagine up these awesome experiences, and then wait for the perfect time to execute them.

Wait until my mom’s 60th birthday to throw her a surprise party.

Wait until Christmas to give the perfect gift that I thought up in July.

Wait until my honeymoon to take an epic trip.

But sometimes the perfect time never happens. In fact, the perfect time is never guaranteed. I’d even say the perfect time is the exception – and you can’t expect the exception.

So when a dear friend moves to Australia and you find yourself with extra vacation time and extra money in savings, that becomes the perfect time to take an epic trip – not an unguaranteed honeymoon.

I could keep waiting for something that might never happen, or I could reconfigure my epic trip fantasy and make it happen now.

So that’s what I did. I planned the trip – a big choosing butterflies moment for me…the eternal homebody.

And because I planned the trip, I got to have experiences that now, on the other side, I can’t imagine being left unexperienced.

I had the pinnacle airport arrival moment where I dropped my bags and hugged my friend for a really long time as we giggled and squealed.

Taking the ferry as we head home from the airport

Taking the ferry as we head home from the airport

I beat jet lag like a boss. Seriously…I travelled for nearly 24 hours with a 16-hour time change and jet lag did not get in my way going there or coming home. I win.

I saw things I had only dreamt up in my head, like the Sydney Opera House. I fell in love with this building during the 2000 Olympics and it was even more spectacular in person. I couldn’t look away…which you can tell from the 25+ pictures I took of the building from every angle.

From the ferry

From the ferry

From the Opera Bar

From the Opera Bar

From the Sydney Harbour Bridge

From the Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

From the Royal Botanical Gardens

From the Royal Botanical Gardens

 

From inside the Opera House

From inside the Opera House

 

I sat in a park and read with this view in the background.

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I watched a movie with this view in the background.

St. George Open Air Theatre

St. George Open Air Theatre

 

I sat on a beach and played in the giant waves of the Tasman Sea.

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I got to be a solo tourist, since Nina had to work a few days I was there…and I enjoyed it. I picked my own itinerary for the day and could change it if I felt like it.

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I navigated complicated public transit on my own, sometimes involving ferries, trains and buses all in one trip. (Note: “on my own” = “with the help of Google Maps”)

The Circular Quay train station

The Circular Quay train station

 

I walked from Bondi to Coogee Beach and witnessed beach views that I wouldn’t believe I actually saw in person if not for the dozens of photos I took.

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I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, explored the Daintree Rainforest, and walked along Cape Tribulation where there were multiple signs warning of crocodiles and deadly jellyfish.

Snorkelling selfie

Snorkelling selfie

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If I had waited for the perfect time, none of these things would’ve happened. They would’ve been experiences left unexperienced. And that thought breaks heart.

What experiences might not happen if you keep waiting for the perfect time?

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You’ve come so far

Dear 19 year-old Lindsay,

You’re about to take a step that’s really hard. Something you anxiously dreaded for most of your teen years, because you weren’t sure how it would ever happen.

You’re about to move into residence to start university.

You’ve come so far. Remember when you couldn’t even go on a sleepover for four solid years? Remember how you missed out on weeks at the cottage with your friends because you didn’t want to be away from home? And now you’re moving out. I’m so proud of you!

It’s only 25 minutes from home, but this is a big deal. You’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s not all going to be easy. There’s going to be teary nights and you’ll want to go back home sometimes, but you’re going to surprise yourself. You’ll only make a desperate call home once…and that’s because you hurt your back in the shower (and sorry, it’s not even a fun story). You’re going to have really awesome roommates who totally get this weird quirk you have. Don’t be afraid to be honest with them, they’re going to surprise you.

And this is just the first step. Guess what? When you’re 26, you’re going to buy your own condo, and live all on your own. You’ll live there for longer than you planned, but it’s okay. You’re actually going to love living on your own, I promise. Let that sink in. You’re braver than you think.

And you know what else? You’re going to travel to the other side of the world, to Australia, all on your own. A few years before, you meet a wonderful friend who moves there, and you use that as an excuse to save up a whole lot of money and go on an adventure.

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I’ll warn you, some of that anxiety is going to creep up again as you plan the trip. You’re going to go through every worst-case scenario and try to convince yourself not to go. But now you know how to handle it. You can put it in perspective. You understand that nerves aren’t a reason to pack it up and crawl back into your comfort zone. You’ll live in this weird tension where you actually kind of like those nerves, they tell you that you’re growing and that you’re doing something brave.

Please trust me when I say those nerves are a good thing, and taking this step to move away is going to change everything in an amazing way. Because you do this, you’re going to realize how brave you really are…one step at a time.

I’m proud of you brave girl.

Love,
Almost 32 year-old Lindsay

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